Alleged abuse victim files lawsuit against ex-priest, Denver Archdiocese

 

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Denver, Colo., Jan 20, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

A fifth alleged sexual abuse victim of a former Catholic priest convicted for crimes against minors has filed a lawsuit against his alleged abuser and the Archdiocese of Denver.

Scott Verti, 38, told the Fort Collins-based newspaper The Coloradoan he sees the lawsuit as “an opportunity for me to right a regret that I had over the last however many years as an adult, wishing I had come forward.”

Verti alleges that from 1999 to 2003 then Father Tim Evans abused him more than 100 times when he was an altar boy and sacristan at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Fort Collins, Colorado. The lawsuit, filed Jan. 19, alleges physical and sexual abuse at the church and at Evans’ apartment beginning when Verti was age 13 and ending when he was 18.

The alleged abuse resulted in post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, and other problems, Verti said at a Thursday news conference, The Coloradoan reported.

“I had no ability to trust anybody,” he said. “That abuse … corrupted my entire adult life.”

Verti seeks over $100,000 in damages. A law that took effect in January 2021 allows a three-year window for victims to file civil lawsuits against their alleged abusers for incidents as far back as 1960.

The archdiocese responded to the lawsuit in a Thursday statement, saying: “The Archdiocese of Denver cares about all survivors of sexual abuse and is fully committed to protecting the most vulnerable members of our community — children, youth, and at-risk adults.”

The archdiocese does not comment on pending litigation, Kelly Clark, director of public relations and communications, told CNA Jan. 20.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, Evans served as parochial vicar at Spirit of Christ Catholic Community in Arvada and pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Lakewood, both in the west Denver suburbs, before he was named pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish.

Evans faced a criminal investigation in 2005, in which three teen victims were identified. A fourth victim was identified in a 2019 report from the Colorado attorney general’s office, Verti’s attorney Kurt Zaner said Thursday. Evans’ first victim reported his abuse to the Denver Archdiocese in March 2003, and the archdiocese reported the allegation to police immediately and revoked his pastoral faculties.

Verti had been contacted by police during the 2005 investigation but was not ready to speak up, he told The Coloradoan.

In 2007 Evans was sentenced to 14 years to life in prison for sexually assaulting a teen at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church. He also was convicted of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust for a separate incident in Jefferson County, on the west side of the Denver metro area. He was laicized in May 2013.

In 2020, Evans was granted parole. News of his release prompted Verti to come forward, Verti said.

In October 2019 the Colorado attorney general’s office released a report based on the archives and personnel files of Colorado’s three dioceses dating back to 1950. It especially faulted dioceses’ responses to sexual abuse allegations before the early 1990s.

According to the report, Evans was accused of sexual harassment beginning in seminary. Though there was no explicit allegation of sexual misconduct with children, the report said, the archdiocese knew about and failed to investigate “serious and recurring personal relationship, boundary, and sexual issues that indicated he may engage in sexual misconduct with children.”

“The archdiocese has [had] a chance at every single step of this guy’s path to stop him,” said Zaner, one of Verti’s attorneys.

The report found that, since 1950, 43 diocesan priests have been credibly accused of sexually abusing at least 166 children in the state. Nearly 70% of victims were abused in the 1960s and 1970s. As of the report’s publication, the most recent acts of documented alleged clerical sexual abuse took place in 1998. It did find two alleged recent incidents of “grooming.”

Though the report acknowledged Catholic dioceses had improved their responses to abuse allegations, it offered several recommendations.

In his response to the report, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver apologized to abuse victims and promised “to continue doing everything I can so it never happens again.” He stressed the need for continued vigilance against abuse in the Church and elsewhere in society.


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